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May 31, 2011- Memorial Day: Falmouth...

We started the Memorial Day weekend by heading down to Cape like everyone else. Unlike a lot of folks, we started our trip early on Friday and managed to escape the crushing 3PM "parking lot" scene out of Boston. Our drive was top-down, leisurely, and, with Lady GaGa's latest album (only $.99 on Amazon!) on the iPod to help pass the time, quite quick. Our destination for the day was Falmouth, both because we wanted to visit Woods Hole and because there was an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet dinner at the Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth. We are not big people, but we are big eaters and we WILL go where the eating is good.

One of us had skipped breakfast and as we had made no stops on our drive down, we arrived in Falmouth ready for lunch. We took a quick stoll down Main Street to scope out the scene and decided on the Quaterdeck Restaurant. It looked like a place where the locals would go for lunch. The place was designed using salvaged wood from local boatyards to create the feeling of... [more]- Memorial Day: Falmouth MA


May 27, 2011- iPad2 Accessories: InnoPocket...

When we were reviewing accessories for the iPad last year, we noticed that a few of the companies had products which were similar (clear case, stand, etc.). A little digging revealed that many of them were sourcing their products from a company called InnoPocket. InnoPocket has been making accessories for mobile devices for a long time and have consistently been an innovator and leader with their offerings. Their soon-to-be available EliteFolio, crafted using carbon fiber, is just one example of the continuation of this history. They have also announced an updated clear case for the iPad2 with an improved hinge/stand (more on this at a later date).

Carbon fiber is light, strong, but notoriously difficult to work with for those who don't know what they are doing. Most of the finishing work has to be done by hand. It is one of the reasons why we have not seen a... [more]- iPad2 Accessories: InnoPocket


May 26, 2011- iPad2 Accessories: ZaggMate...

We'll admit it, we were a bit disappointed when our Gen1 ZaggMate did not fit the iPad2. However, there was no way Zagg could have anticipated the change. We would have been really impressed had the design been able to accommodate both versions of iPads. Don't get us wrong, the Gen1 ZaggMate works just fine as a keyboard for either iPad, it's just that the size of the case is a hair too big for the iPad2 to fit snuggly. We probably could have made it work with some strategic addition of padding, but when we read that Zagg had updated the ZaggMate, we knew readers would want us to check it out.

In April, Zagg announced an exclusive master license and distribution agreement with Logitech for the ZAGGmate™ case with keyboard. The deal makes a lot of sense for both companies and is a boon for users. As keyboard configurations vary by country, the deal enables ZAGG to... [more]- iPad2 Accessories: ZaggMate


May 25, 2011- iPad2 Accessories: Sena...

Not everyone can rock a hot pink BubbleSleeve or a slick black StreetSkin for their iPad. For the boardroom crowd, a black leather folio may be more appropriate. If that is your case, then Sena's got your iPad2 covered.

Sena knows leather. Going back three generations, the Oten family has excelled in the leather industry. Brothers and owners Ramsey and Fevzi Oten are the grandchildren of an entrepreneur in the leather industry. Leather is one of nature's most versatile and sensual materials. Sena has always taken great care to... [more]- iPad2 Accessories: Sena


May 24, 2011- iPad2 Accessories: HardCandy...

When we started reviewing iPad cases last year we didn't just pick stuff off the rack. We endeavoured to find cases and accessories that were different in some way: higher quality materials, unique designs, etc. The search led to a series of BestOfBreed (BOB) articles for the first-generation iPad. When the iPad2 was announced, readers asked if we would be doing something similar. We expected to have a difficult time finding enough new items to put a series together. Wow, were we pleasantly surprised! The iPad case ecosystem has EXPLODED in a year. If anything, we were not sure we would actually have enough time to look at everything that's out there. In order to pare down the candidates, we had to refine our selection criteria. HardCandy made the cut because their cases (StreetSkin, BubbleSleeve) are functional (easy to grip, protective, shock-absorbing) and unique (interesting patterns, great colors).

Don't let the hot pink color or the word "bubble" in the name BubbleSleeve give you the impression that this case is anything but SERIOUS travel protection for the iPad. The exterior of the BubbleSleeve is made from molded thylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. This stuff is typically found in sports equipment padding and the like. One of the cool things about EVA, beside its shock-absorbing capability, is... [more]- iPad2 Accessories: HardCandy


May 23, 2011- iPad2 Accessories preview...

The iPad2 was released, to incredible anticipation, a year after the initial iPad launch. Just as with the initial iPad, Apple gave no details on the iPad2 prior to its announcement. When the iPad2 was unveiled, it became clear that most of our Gen1 iPad-specific accessories would not fit the iPad2. The newer iPad is thinner, been given both a front and a rear camera, and sports a few other minor changes. While the overall dimensions are similar to the first generation iPad, they are different enough that Gen1 custom accessories will not fit.

Accessories such as the TwelveSouth's Compass and Fossil's leather sleeve for the Gen1 iPad will, of course, work just fine with the iPad2. Others such as the Sena Executive Folio will hold the new iPad, but will not have the appropriate openings for cameras. The Bluetooth keyboard of the Gen1 Zaggmate will work just fine, but the cover is just a hair too... [more]- -iPad2 Accessories preview


May 20, 2011- PED3 Mount...

When we mentioned that we were looking for an appropriate tripod mount for the iPhone, a few readers pointed us to a couple of possibilities. Of all the suggestions, the unit from ThoughtOut appeared to be the best one for our application. The major pieces (grip, stem, arm) are made of metal, the tips are rubber-coated, and the design does not interfere with the macro lens protruding from the iPhone.

Assembly of the PED3 mount was quick and simple: insert arm into stem; thread mount onto tripod; slide in phone; adjust grip. We should note that it is a good idea to make sure the phone is secured in the cradle before moving the... [more]- PED3 Mount


May 19, 2011- Lensbaby Macro...

We have been on a bit of a macro-photography binge lately. We have done some fun and creative things with the Lensbaby in the past. A recent "ah ha" moment led us to realize that it may be interesting to mount the Lensbaby onto a bellows and use it as a macro lens. While we know we could mount the lens, we were not sure if we could get it to focus.

There are macro accessories for the Lensbaby 3G lens. However, the bellows, if it works, would give us the option of playing with the amount of magnification on the fly. The downside is that the rig would be... [more]- Lensbaby Macro


May 18, 2011- Nikon P7000 FirstLook...

The Nikon D90 has been our daily workhorse for two years. Prior to that we had been using the D40s. The D40s were light, grab-n-go, take anywhere, cameras. However, they were a little bit too large to easily slip into a coat pocket for when we wanted to be a little mor, um, discrete. We kept the D40s around as a backup for the D90, but in the two years of owning the D90 we really only used the D40s a few times. A few weeks ago, we sold one of the D40s on Craigslist and used the funds to purchase Nikon's top-of-the-line point-n-shoot camera, the CoolPix P7000.

We had not purchased a point-n-shoot digital camera since we bought a Canon S100 when it was first released more than a decade ago. While we were not surprised at how much has improved in this product segment, we were surprised at how much we were able to... [more]- Nikon P7000 FirstLook


May 17, 2011- CarChip Pro...

If you have a car built after 1996, sooner or later the On-Board-Diagnostic (OBD) or Check-Engine (CL) light will come on. This little yellow light will stay on and nag at you until you get it checked out. Some owners will ignore the light and hope that it will just go away. Others will try all kinds of ways (fiddling with the gas cap, disconnecting the battery, etc...) to try to get it to go off. However, the proper thing to do is to read the code, see what triggered the fault, and decide if service is required.

The RainyDayGarage folks have looked at many OBDII readers over the years (CarChip, OBDKey, CarMD). Their favorite is the CarChip. Like all OBDII readers, the CarChip can read and download the fault code, but unlike many of the others the CarChip can also... [more]- CarChip Pro FirstLook


May 16, 2011- iPhone Microscope Outside...

Last week we posted a write-up of the Brando iPhone4 microscope lens. It generated a bit of email asking if the setup is at all practical out "in the field." It was a fair question, as all of the sample images provided in the article were taken inside under controlled conditions. This weekend was overcast, in the mid-60ºs, and had a light breeze. Those were fairly reasonable conditions for seeing out how the iPhone4 microscope would perform InTheWild.

The advantage of using the iPhone4 camera outside during the day is that there is plenty of light. However, having TOO much light can overwhelm the camera's sensor. The day being bright but overcast was a huge benefit as the diffused light lit the plants without creating hard edges and harsh shadows. Another benefit of a cloudy day was that it was easier to... [more]- iPhone Microscope Outside


May 13, 2011- Brimfield Antique Show...

Every few years we make the drive from Boston to the giant, outdoor, practically the whole town, antique show out in Brimfield. We go, not because we are big antiquers, but because we love the idea of poking around in other people's attics.

The awesome thing about the Brimfield Antique Show is its hallmark organized chaos. We have been to the show a few times and have realized that long-time vendors are situated in approximately the same location year after year. Other than that, it is just one big jumbo. If you are looking for something specific, somebody at this show probably has it, but... [more]- Brimfield Antique Show


May 12, 2011- Philips Wake-up Light...

Waking up well is as important as sleeping well, especially if you have to wake up before first light. Research has shown that light is an essential signal which can boost both mood and energy levels. For folks who must get out of be before sunrise, the lack of morning light can make getting up difficult. While getting the right amount of sleep is still required, technology has made waking up a lot more pleasant.

In March, we posted a FirstLook of the Wake-up Light from Philips. The idea behind the Wake-up light is to gradual, 30-minute, increase in the intensity of the light from the lamp prior to the desired wake up time. At the preset time, the Wake-up Light will activate one of two pleasant sounds (birds chirping, beep) or the FM radio. So instead of being jarred awake by a... [more]- Philips Wake-up Light FirstUse


May 11, 2011- Aikido Kids Program...

The art of Aikido stresses both compassion and cooperation while helping to improve one's well-being and fitness. Some of us started our Aikido study in our early 40s. At that age, the body and the mind are less flexible. It takes longer to warm up and even longer to recover. Oh, what we would give to have begun our study when we were just kids! For some, that wish can come true. Shobu Aikido of Boston's Kids Classes will be starting on June 1st.

Kids Aikido classes (ages 8-11 yrs old) will be held on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4:15pm. Wednesday's one-hour class will be led by Mark Hardcastle and Thursday's class by Gordon Fontaine. The dojo is light-filled, beautiful, easy to get to, and has plenty of parking. The cost is just $75 a month and siblings are 1/2 price (sliding-scale is available); parents can participate for free! Registration maybe done online or in person. The program is expected to fill up fast and space is limited. [Permalink] -Shobu Aikiko of Boston: Kids program


May 10, 2011- iPhone Microscope...

We came across a DIY article on the Crabfu Artworks website last September on how to turn the iPhone into a portable digital microscope. We thought the idea was ingenious. Apparently, so did the company that makes the lens. They thought the hack was so cool that they started shipping the lens with a slip-on iPhone4 cover. We got one and have been playing with it for a bit. Of all the iPhone accessories which come across our desks daily, this one from Brando is quickly becoming a favorite.

For an inexpensive little gadget, this tiny lens is more complicated than we expected. The housing of the lens and sleeve are made of plastic. The lens can extend in the sleeve to adjust and accommodate different minimum focus distances of various cell phone cameras. A clear brace is positioned at the end of the lens so the light from the LED can shine on through onto the... [more]- iPhone Microscope


May 9, 2011- SmartFish Whirl...

The introduction of the computer mouse revolutionized how we interact with the computer. The idea of the mouse was conceived by Douglas Engelbart back in the early 60's and made popular by Apple with the introduction of its 128K Mac in the 1983. In the past thirty years, a lot of tweaks have been made to the basic mouse design. Buttons, scroll-wheels, and laser-tracking have advanced its usability. Sculpted bodies and glide-pads have made the mouse more comfortable to use. Wireless transmitters have freed it from the constraints of cable and helped decrease desk clutter. Even with all of these improvement, the basic ergonomics of the mouse has not changed until Jack Atzmon, a New York chiropractor, had an "Eureka" moment.

Atzmon knew that motion was important for keeping the hand and wrist from stiffening up and will help in avoiding repetitive stress injuries. Atzmon used this insight to create the SmartFish Whirl laser mouse. SmartFish mice are designed not just to fit comfortable in the hand, but to... [more]- SmartFish: Whirl Laser Mouse


May 6, 2011- SkipDr & ScreenDr...

There may come a time when everything will be "in the cloud." With services like iTunes, NetFlix, and Hulu, that day may not be far off for music and movies. However, the Internet infrastructure in the US will not be able to support pushing the content of a Blu-ray disc (27GB-50GB of data) rapidly through its pipes any time soon. Until that day, keeping our collection of Blu-ray and other discs working well will mean keeping them as scratch-free as possible.

The difference between digital discs and analog records is that light scratches on a digital disc does not necessarily mean the disc is ruined. This is because unlike vinyl records, there is a clear protective layer on top of the data layer on digital discs. While a light scratch can cause visual and audio artifacts to appear on playback, those scratches can often times be "fixed." One trick which sometimes works is to rub some oil from the side of... [more]- Digital Innovations: SkipDr & ScreenDr


May 5, 2011- Peterson Engineering's Get-A-Grip...

What is the best way of pickup a telescope that's the size of a keg of beer? Bear hugging it is our typical approach. While the mounting assistant makes it easy to secure on the tripod, carrying the body around is both uncomfortable and unwieldy. When we saw Peterson Engineering's Get-A-Grip at NEAF, we knew it was something we wanted add to our 10" LX200 GPS scope.

Pete Peterson created the Get-A-Grip handles for the 12" and bigger Meade LX series of telescopes. The handles are direct replacements for those that come with the large scopes. For those who want to add these handles to scopes 10" or smaller, mounting holes must be drilled. To make it easy, Peterson Enginnering included all of the pieces (stainless steel screws, nuts, drill bit) required... [more]- Get-A-Grip FirstLook


May 4, 2011- Thousand Character Reference...

The idea of using Adobe's DMP tools to convert a project we did about eight years ago into a reference text for the iPad came to us in a roundabout fashion. It dawned on us after a conversation with a total stranger we met at a birthday party last Saturday night. The original project was a DVD of the 1000 Chinese Characters created using iMovie and iDVD and resulting in the standard media files (jpgs, sound files, etc.). When we got the iPad in 2010, we built a .pdf version to see how it would "feel" on the device. While the eBook was more usable than then DVD version, some features were missing. The PDF approach was fine for creating an eBook but adding additional capabilities (voice, video, multiple views) proved to be more challenging.

After a few beers, and while describing our experience with Adobe's DMP tools, it clicked into place that we had all we needed to put together an iPad app of the Thousand Character Reference text with all of the features missing from the PDF version. The challenging part was creating a... [more]- Thousand Character Reference


May 3, 2011- Adobe DMP Tools:Fast & Furious...

Adobe recently announced that the beta period for their Digital Magazine Publishing tools will end in June. This means that the free tools we used to create the 2010 Gift Guide and the 2011 Spring issue for the iPad will cost $500/month to use. While we love the tools, this is not yet an option for us.

We can understand Adobe's desire to create a new revenue stream with their DMP tools, but we predict that the approach (along with others who are looking to charge a per issue fee) will fail. The failure is not because large publishers won't pay, but that other toolmakers will provide a fee-free publishing option. After all, it is not particularly technically difficult to convert... [more]- Adobe DMP Tools: Fast & Furious


May 2, 2011- AT&T: Can you hear me now?...

We have been with T-Moblle for the nine years and have been very happy with their service. When we heard the news that AT&T had purchased T-Mobile, we were both happy and apprehensive. Happy because we finally had a justification for upgrading to the iPhone, apprehensive because of the infamous stories of AT&T's customer service. Our Family Plan with T-Mobile had two numbers with NYC area codes and two with Boston area codes. We expected to be able to keep all of the existing numbers, and when we tried to do the conversion at the time of the purchase, the AT&T site would not port the two NYC numbers. Undaunted we called up AT&T customer service, explained to them the situation, and they said it should be no problem. They tried to do it, but were also unsuccessful. The sales person told us that once we got the phones to activate them and then call the AT&T porting service, who should be able to do it at that time.

OK...we ordered the phones and waited, and waited...no phones. We knew the phones had been ordered as we saw the charge on our credit card. We tried tracking them on the AT&T site, but could not log in. After spending some time playing "phone-tree tag" with customer service, we discovered that... [more]- AT&T: Can you hear me now?



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